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Clinically significant bleeding in incurable cancer patients: effectiveness of hemostatic radiotherapy

Nikola Cihoric1, Susanne Crowe2, Steffen Eychmüller3, Daniel M Aebersold1 and Pirus Ghadjar1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Radiation Oncology, Bern University Hospital, and University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

2 SAKK Coordinating Center, Bern, Switzerland

3 Center of Palliative Care, Bern University Hospital, and University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

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Radiation Oncology 2012, 7:132  doi:10.1186/1748-717X-7-132

Published: 3 August 2012



This study was performed to evaluate the outcome after hemostatic radiotherapy (RT) of significant bleeding in incurable cancer patients.


Patients treated by hemostatic RT between November 2006 and February 2010 were retrospectively analyzed. Bleeding was assessed according to the World Health Organization (WHO) scale (grade 0 = no bleeding, 1 = petechial bleeding, 2 = clinically significant bleeding, 3 = bleeding requiring transfusion, 4 = bleeding associated with fatality). The primary endpoint was bleeding at the end of RT. Key secondary endpoints included overall survival (OS) and acute toxicity. The bleeding score before and after RT were compared using the Wilcoxon signed rank test. Time to event endpoints were estimated using the Kaplan Meier method.


Overall 62 patients were analyzed including 1 patient whose benign cause of bleeding was pseudomyxoma peritonei. Median age was 66 (range, 37–93) years. Before RT, bleeding was graded as 2 and 3 in 24 (39%) and 38 (61%) patients, respectively. A median dose of 20 (range, 5–45) Gy of hemostatic RT was applied to the bleeding site. At the end of RT, there was a statistically significant difference in bleeding (p < 0.001); it was graded as 0 (n = 39), 1 (n = 12), 2 (n = 6), 3 (n = 4) and 4 (n = 1). With a median follow-up of 19.3 (range, 0.3-19.3) months, the 6-month OS rate was 43%. Forty patients died (65%); 5 due to bleeding. No grade 3 or above acute toxicity was observed.


Hemostatic RT seems to be a safe and effective treatment for clinically and statistically significantly reducing bleeding in incurable cancer patients.

Cancer; Bleeding; Hemostatic; Palliative; Radiotherapy